Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2008
Q60 Ms Buck: We all know that there
is a concern at the moment about youth crime and some of the issues
around gangs. Extra policing and enforcement powers are clearly
part of the answer to dealing with that, but, in addition, there
is a critical need to deal with some of the issues around prevention.
What role has the Mayor got in dealing with issues of youth crime
Mr Livingstone: It is important
to remember the Mayor sets the police budget, and that is it.
The application of that budget is a matter for the Commissioner,
i.e. the day to day administration is matter for the Commissioner.
I am not in the position of, say, the Mayor of New York, who has
basically operational control of the Commissioner and the budget,
and I suspect no-one would actually want that for any mayor, but
the relationship is one in which, I think, all the agreements
I have achieved with the two commissioners to put resources back
on the streets have worked. The second area is what you do. We
can flood the streets with police, but wherever you go in London
the kids say, "There is nothing to do around here."
The Government has now given my £59 million, and we have
added £20 million to the LGA budget to restore youth provision.
I grew up in a city where in the evenings and at weekends kids
were taken to organised activities, where our parents and others
were role models and mentors, that used our energy, and we need
to rebuild that so that kids have got something to do other than
hang round and get caught up in gangs. I am delighted. At the
moment the total spending on youth provision in the evenings and
at weekends in London and for all 32 boroughs is £60 million.
This is £79 million to spend over two years, so the objective
has to be to double this provision and then sustain it.
Q61 Ms Buck: On that second point,
there is also an issue around young people and using public transport.
Have you been able to do anything since you have become Mayor
in dealing with some of those concerns about young people's behaviour
on buses and transport?
Mr Livingstone: We had a spike
of anti-social behaviour in the immediate aftermath of making
free travel on the buses for under-16s, and our response to that
was to create the safer transport groups in the 21 outer boroughs.
We are now rolling them out in the 11 inner boroughs this year.
As I said, in the year following that, crime by under-16s on the
buses was cut by 19% and the conviction rate went up about 20%.
From June, where initially we decided the photo-pass would only
apply to children over 14, I think we will make that from the
age of 11 (so at that point where children move from primary to
secondary school they have to have a pass with the photo ID or
they will not be able to get on the bus), and that is going to
be easier for conductors to enforce. It is much easier to tell
the difference between a ten year old and a 14 year old than it
is a 14 and a 16.
Q62 David Davies: Mr Livingstone,
the figures that you are using, are they based on the British
Crime Survey, which the Chief Constable of the BTP has recently
said are not that accurate, or are they based on recorded crime?
Mr Livingstone: They are the Recorded
Crime Statistics. It is quite interesting: when you track the
Recorded Crime Statistics and the British Crime Survey, over the
period since 2000 our crime statistics show an 18% reduction and
the British Crime Statisticsit is an opinion poll really,
a good poll, and we spend a lot of money on opinion polls, so
I am not going to rubbish themshows a 15% reduction. That
is within the margin of error. I think the problem with British
Crime Statistics is I know people are interviewed in their home,
but if the overwhelming background of the media is endless crime,
it encourages a fear. The big difference between, say, London
and New York is that, as crime figures came down in New York,
New York's media broadcast this world good news story. I have
yet to see on the front page of the Evening Standard: "Murder,
rape down 28%". In almost any other city in the world you
would expect to see that. When you analyse fear of crime by newspaper
readership, people who read the tabloids have a greater fear of
crime than those who read the broadsheets.
Q63 Mr Clappison: So it is all the
Mr Livingstone: In the London
BBC and ITV regional news programmes they have a slogan, "If
it bleeds, it leads", and it is quite bizarre that as crime
and serious crimes are coming down they are not instantly reporting
it. It sells papers. People love horror stories; here they get
one free on the tube.
Q64 Tom Brake: Mr Livingstone, you
have talked in glowing terms of the extra police that you have
provided and, consequently, the drop in crime that you say is
associated with that. Equally, you are on record as saying that
no mayor, no commissioner of police can stop young people killing
each other if they have not been given a moral code. Are you responsible
for reducing the crime levels, or are you in fact not able to
address crime? Which is it?
Mr Livingstone: The point I am
making is that, even if we had 70,000 police on the streets, a
child that takes a knife to school can end up being killed with
it in a fight, and, therefore, the moral code is important. My
parents, that post-war generation, gave me a very clear sense
of what was right and what was wrong and a very clear sense of
a responsibility to society. I was taught from a very early age
that you get up and give up your seat to a woman on the train.
Now we have to put stickers up to remind people to do that for
pregnant women. I do think you are looking at a generation today,
and I know this is controversial, these are the children of the
kids that grew up in the eighties when society was talking about,
"Get your snout in the trough; no such thing as society;
look after number one; greed is good, as Gordon Gekko said. I
do think society has a duty, through its parents and through its
schools, to give a basic moral code and I think a lot of parents
do not do thatthey did not get it themselvesand
there was a newspaper story the other day about teachers having
to do this. We have got to get to those parents who have never
been shown how to be parents.
Q65 Tom Brake: Mr Livingstone, I
would share your views on the success or otherwise of the Thatcherite
years. However, you seem to be suggesting that really there is
nothing that the police can do and you as Mayor can do about tackling
the crimes that are associated with the sort of young people that
you are talking about.
Mr Livingstone: There is a real
difference between saying the police cannot stop somebody killing
someone else, unless it is very ugly circumstances, to saying
the police cannot do anything about it. We have had incredibly
effective targeting. We used to have a much higher rate of murder
amongst the black communities. We established Operation Trident
and rebuilt confidence between the black communities and the police.
The conviction rate for black-on-black murders under Operation
Trident: at the beginning, before Trident, it was only a third
of convictions; it is now running at two-thirds of convictions
because the black community have gained the confidence that the
police are on their side and they are giving information up. When
we have specific, targeted operations, as we did over Christmas
and New Year, against clubs where we know a lot of the customers
carry knives and close them, a dramatic reduction in knife crime
around that time. You can extend CCTV. Every time you are on a
bus we have six or seven cameras trained on you, we are gradually
getting better and better at arresting people, even people who
carry out quite small crimes. We can do all this, but it is not
just the police on their own, it is wider society: parents, teachers,
community leaders have all got to be involved.
Q66 Mr Streeter: I was interested
in your answer to Karen Buck, Mr Livingstone, when you said that
people in this country would not want the Mayor of London to have
operational control of the police, because in your submission
to us you suggest that one of the reforms you support is that
the Metropolitan Police Authority's executive functions should
be taken over by the Mayor of London. It seemed to me that was
more or less saying the same thing. Do you think that people in
this country would be comfortable with you as Mayor having day-to-day
control of London police?
Mr Livingstone: That is the Metropolitan
Police Authority, which is the small body that is comprised of
half of Assembly members and then co-optees; it is not the Metropolitan
Police Service. They cannot tell the Commissioner how to operate
either. I think there is confusion. The problem with the Metropolitan
Police Authority is, like the old BBC Board of Governors, it is
the body they are accountable to but it is also involved in advising,
guiding and managing. So I would rather that the Mayor appointed
a small core of non politicians with expertise in this area, representing
the community, representing people who have real expertise in
crime, and the MPA then became accountable to the London Assembly,
so you strengthen their role as well. At the moment they are not.
Q67 Mr Streeter: So you are not saying
that you should have day-to-day control of the Metropolitan Police?
Mr Livingstone: No, I do not think
so. I think Mayor Giuliani was particularly successful and when
you have got a good and honest mayor, that is all going to be
fine. The risk from a mayor that is not so honest---. How would
someone like Mr Yates have conducted his inquiry into the cash
for honours scandal if I was, effectively, his line manager? I
do not want that situation.
Q68 Martin Salter: Mr Livingstone,
how do you react to David Cameron's proposal that we should have
elected police commissioners? Is there not some validity in Liberty's
criticism that this could lead to excessive politicisation of
Mr Livingstone: In London we have
an elected mayor and there is clear responsibility for providing
the police budget; the Home Secretary appoints the Commissioner.
I actually think that is now an anachronism, it should be the
Mayor that makes that appointment, but I notice no capital city
in the world allows it. Wherever the government is based, they
always insist on appointing their police commissioner, so this
is a pattern we are not going to break. I do not dismiss everything
David Cameron says. I am particularly struck by his statement
that you would never have got police back on the streets of London
if there was not a directly elected mayor, and you needed somebody
who actually set the police budget to be in a position to negotiate
and say, "I am prepared to give you eight years of expanded
spending. I want police back on the streets", and that was
the deal I struck with Sir John and it is a deal that has been
honoured by Ian Blair, and I think that a clear point of accountability,
the person who sets the council tax, subject to the Assembly,
able to say as you sit there with the Commissioning Office, "I
will give you X million more. How are they going to be deployed?",
and the two commissioners have always honoured the deals we have
done. If police numbers in London go down, Londoners have the
Mayor to blame, because the Mayor has not provided the funding.
Q69 Gwyn Prosser: Mr Livingstone,
I want to ask you about the relationship between minority groups
in London and the Met Police. In your view (and perhaps if you
have got any evidence you could share it with us), how has that
changed within the time that you have been Mayor and, in particular,
what effect have the counter-terrorism measures and activities
had on that relationship?
Mr Livingstone: Twenty-five years
ago we had riots in London and we eventually had the hacking to
death of a police officer at Broadwater Farmrelations were
appalling. Before I became Mayor at the time of David Copeland's
free bonds, I went to community events where the police were working
and I was struck by how already things had begun to change. Sir
John Stephens drove that forward, Ian Blair has continued that
and I think there is an incredible level of trust between London's
ethnic minorities. If you look at the Muslim community, which
is the one most under pressure at the moment, a police officer
that mishandles a stop and search clearly worsens the situation,
but I think the vast majority of our police are very sensitive
to the fact that the Muslim community needs to be kept on side.
It is our eyes and ears; we get much of the intelligence that
leads us to prevent atrocities from the Muslim community. If you
actually look at the raid in Forest Gate, in Newham, which could
have stretched relations to breaking point, I was struck by the
number of Muslim leaders saying, "We know these things have
to be done. If there is a suspicion, there has to be a raid."
We learnt how to handle it a bit better out of that. What is stretching
relations between the Muslim community and wider society is not
the police, it is the war in Iraq, and anybody whoever sits before
you and says that the major force fuelling terrorism is not the
war in Iraq, they are really misleading you.
Q70 Gwyn Prosser: The specific effects
of counter-terrorism activities?
Mr Livingstone: This is a tension.
My primary response in all these debates is if something would
genuinely make it safer for Londoners, we have to do it, and that
is the balance against civil liberties, but it is a constant struggle.
I followed the twists and turns of how many days. I am not persuaded
to go beyond the present limit at all, and being honest and slightly
humorous, if you say to a police officer, "You would like
42 years", they would say, "That is fine"the
police are inevitably going to take whatever enables them to do
their job more easily. Members of Parliament have got to balance
that against any long-term damage to established civil liberties,
which might in the end---. There is no point fighting Al Qaeda
if at the end of the day we have lost most of the liberties which
we are told they so hate.
Q71 Gwyn Prosser: You mentioned stop
and search. What do you think the effect of Sir Ronnie Flanagan's
stop and search proposals have had on the relationship?
Mr Livingstone: I am attracted
to them, because anything that reduces the time of the stop and
search is to be welcomed. You have got to retain the essence of
what the Macpherson Lawrence Inquiry did in terms of accountability.
If we can have a small handheld computer and something is tapped
in, or if each officer has got a named identity card that they
can give with a phone contact point, that is fine. I think one
of the great mistakes of the last ten years is this drift into
the idea you can manage everything with monitoring and checking
and reforms to the centre. I think an awful lot more is achieved
if you devolve and let people have more responsibility locally.
Q72 Gwyn Prosser: On a number of
occasions you have said that you want to see a police force in
London that looks more like London. How are you progressing in
that and what effect will that have?
Mr Livingstone: We have made very
good progress. It is very difficult when you inherit an established
force; you can only change the intakes coming in. It is much more
instructive to look at the police community support officers,
which look much more like London. What is really good about that
is that a lot of people are doing a year or two PCSOs and then
feel they have the confidence to go to Hendon and train to be
a full police officer. Bearing in mind what I remember of tensions
between the police and ethnic minorities in London 25 years ago,
it is never going to be perfect and it never can be because their
job is to police, it is to control, it is to check, but it is
infinitely better than it was. I never go to bed worrying if there
is going to be a riot in London; whereas that was a constant threat
25 years ago.
Q73 Chairman: Are you disappointed
that more progress has not been made in appointing senior figures
from the black and Asian community within the Police Force to
senior positions in the Metropolitan Police, because we have not
had very many in the last four years?
Mr Livingstone: This is not just
in the police, it is in the fire brigade, it is amongst my own
senior staff. Progress is being made. There are black and Asian
and female appointments being made, but it is always going to
lag a good decade behind that initial wave of recruitment and
we have just got to push much harder. I think you actually may
need special mentoring and help, because there is a huge focus
of attention on the first few faces that appear at the front of
any organisation, they almost have to be perfect, and the slightest
mistake, the slightest error, all the hostile evidence of watching
to exploit it, and we have a couple of examples (which I do not
need to go into before your committee) where, had they not been
high ranking ethnic minority officers, their small indiscretions
might not have achieved the attention they would have liked.
Q74 Mr Winnick: You said the police
would take any number of days beyond the 28 they can have; so
you are not surprised that Sir Ian Blair is one of the very few
people in leading authority who support the Government on extending
the 28 days?
Mr Livingstone: No, I do not agree
with him on that. That is the difference between. You know
where I am coming from politically. Before I had responsibility
in some small measure for London's safety I would have been totally
in the camp of no extra powers for the police.
Q75 Mr Winnick: On the basis that
all of the candidates are for necessary protection against terrorism,
we would listen, obviously, to the other two who are appearing
after you, Mr Livingstone, but if the three of you are very much
opposed to extending it beyond 28 days, should not the Government
take that very much into account in deciding on the policy?
Mr Livingstone: Yes. We may reach
a point where this problem of decoding the encrypted data on computers
means you have to come back and look at 28 days, but I would think
it would be unusual to have a situation, unusual but not impossible,
where you had not already identified other things you could charge
them for whilst you continued to work on the computer. My broad
view would be only to extend the encroachment of civil liberties
once it had been irrevocably demonstrated that it was running
the risk of costing us lives.
Q76 Mr Winnick: That is more or less
the evidence given to us by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Have you notified the Government in one way or another of your
views on this subject?
Mr Livingstone: I think I have
made that clear. Mind you, they do not seem to be paying much
attention to me or my rival candidates on the question of the
third runway either.
Q77 Bob Russell: You indicated earlier
that of the 35,000 uniform officers, 4,000 of them are PCSOs.
Following on Mr Prosser's question about the ethnic diversity
of police officers, are the PCSOs more representative of the London
Mr Livingstone: Much more and,
in particular, in terms of women as well. I do see that almost
as an entry into the full police service later on, so we are very
encouraged by that, because that is the group of officers that
Londoners most see. Seventy five per cent of their time is spent
out on the beat.
Q78 Chairman: Finally, Mr Mayor,
if there was one thing the Government could do to help you with
your policing priorities in London, apart from giving you more
money to do it, what would that be?
Mr Livingstone: Part of the problem
is this, and Sir Ronnie Flanagan's report touches on this question
of the damping. I would say give us the freedom financially to
manage our own budgets. Ninety-seven per cent of all tax in this
country is collected by central government and then doled out.
The life of ministers is a stream of people like me coming from
their towns and counties, saying, "Can we have more money
for this, more money for that?" At some point the Government
has to let go. When I told that figure of 97% to the Mayor in
Moscow he said, "That is worse than Russia under Stalin",
and that is absolutely true. There was once a promise to return
the business rate. That would help.
Q79 Chairman: Mr Livingstone, thank
you for coming to give evidence.
Mr Livingstone: Thank you. It
is a pleasure to be here.